Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Several young stars stand out in Trois-Rivieres

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Four young stars we’ve monitored over the years – Kenton Koch, Scott Hargrove, Stefan Rzadzinski and Kyle Masson – all had a very solid weekend up at the legendary Canadian street circuit in Trois-Rivieres this weekend, as a pair of IMSA championships held a standalone weekend north of the border.

Koch, driving for P1 Motorsports, won his fourth and fifth LMP3 races of the season driving a Ligier JS P3 in the IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda. The lanky Californian missed the season-opening weekend at Sebring but still holds a chance of overtaking Norma M30 driver Colin Thompson for the championship lead at the Road Atlanta season finale, to be held in October, although he still sits 18 points back.

Koch has finished first or second in all but one of his nine starts this season. Thompson has had one fewer first or second place results – a total of two wins and five runner-up finishes – but has been consistent and, additionally, banked 23 points on Koch from the off in Sebring in the first two races of the weekend. Koch won this championship two years ago in 2015 with JDC Motorsports, when the series was then known as IMSA Cooper Tire Prototype Lites powered by Mazda, and raced only the Elan DP02 open-top prototypes.

While Koch has raced in the LMP3 cars for most of this season, he had a new teammate this weekend in the form of Edmonton native Stefan Rzadzinski, who has a wealth of Trois-Rivieres experience and starred in a pair of completely different types of cars.

Rzadzinski, who made waves this year as a ROC Factor fan vote winner into the Race of Champions, promptly finished on the podium in LMP3 in both races in his debut (fifth and third overall), and first and fourth in a pair of Nissan Micra Cup races at the circuit. It was a banner weekend for the likable Canadian who’s driven occasionally in Korea this year, of all places.

Performance Tech Motorsports’ roll in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship PC class has been impressive to watch but so too has the roll of one of its drivers, Kyle Masson, in the Prototype Challenge series. Masson has dominated in the MPC class this year – the renamed class for the Elan DP02 prototype – has now sealed that class championship with one weekend to go at Road Atlanta.

Despite an “off weekend” where he won only one of two races in class, he holds a 76-point lead over Kris Wright with just two races remaining. Masson, who we profiled earlier this year and who also gets to race alongside his father Robert, will pull double duty with less pressure on him at Road Atlanta, between his MPC car and the No. 38 Oreca FLM09 in Petit Le Mans, in that car’s series signoff.

Like Rzadzinski, another Canadian who was an open-wheel prospect turned burgeoning sports car star is Vancouver’s Scott Hargrove, who continued his roll in the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama with his ninth win in 10 races.

A weekend sweep of these two races, driving for Pfaff Motorsports, saw him extend his title lead to 22 points over Zacharie Robichon. The series concludes Labor Day weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and provided Hargrove maintains the same gap after race one of two there, he’ll win another Porsche GT3 Canada title – as he did in 2014 but came up just shy in 2015 (Chris Green won title) and 2016 (Daniel Morad).

Koch and Masson have already won Rolex 24 at Daytona races in the PC class each of the last two years, winning a Rolex watch at their first attempt, while Hargrove and Rzadzinski are two Canadians who’d dazzle in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship if given the opportunity. Either way, we’ll continue to monitor these drivers as they continue to develop and win races.

Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.